Why Did Beyoncé Receive So Much Backlash For Wearing The Tiffany Diamond Exactly?
There is more to it than meets the eye
Beyoncé and her husband JayZ have recently featured in the About Love campaign a collaboration with Tiffany & Co where they marketed diamonds to the world.
In the campaign images, Beyoncé channeled her inner Audrey Hepburn while also wearing the rare $30 million yellow Tiffany diamond.
The campaign was not received well by many globally. Why is this so?
The history of the diamond
Many on social media were quick to point out the controversial history of this diamond. As a rock that originated from South Africa during the colonial era where Africans were exploited to mine them under inhumane conditions, at the expense of their human rights and for the enrichment of their white masters, this Tiffany diamond’s history may not be free of pain and may represent a dark past. Not the love that Beyoncé, her husband, and the campaign seems to push.
For this reason, many people expressed an aversion to the campaign and Beyoncé’s participation in it.
Beyoncé and her husband are not just a representation of black excellence and a source of inspiration for black success. They are also huge supporters of black causes. Through their charitable endeavours, they push for causes that improve the lives of black people both in their country and in Africa.
They also put out art that glorifies and propels for pride in their black heritage that millions that share their ethnicity not only identify with but are also empowered by. Beyoncé’s latest album Black is King in particular was a huge celebration of her Afro ancestry. It, therefore, didn’t sit well with many when she participated in a campaign marketing a diamond that was associated with the dark history of exploitation of Africans.
Her actions came out as someone preaching water but drinking wine. How could she authentically preach black prestige, when she is also participating in a campaign that involves a history of black suppression?
In the eyes of many, Beyoncé could have known better. Her ignorance about the history of the diamond is not a valid excuse.
Diamond versus scholarships
As part of the campaign and in a bid to promote black causes, the campaign also pledged to donate $2 million to historically black colleges and universities. This is a good move. It pushes for the black causes that Beyoncé and JayZ care about.
But the Tiffany diamond is valued at $30 million. That is much much more than the scholarship’s total pledge. Based on the huge difference in these values, there are undertones of this $2 million pledge being used to sanitise the ugly history of black exploitation that this diamond and those others that Beyoncé is marketing. It’s like Tiffany & Co and the couple are saying, “We know getting this thing for us hurt your people, but here are some scraps to numb your pain...”
Based on the negative reactions towards the campaign, it is clear that this one right, cannot cancel the wrongs that are associated with the diamond, unfortunately.
Beyoncé is well known for being meticulous in her art and outputs. Her art especially in recent years has borrowed a lot of symbolism from Afro cultures. Based on how she interprets it and how well received it has been in the past, it’s evident that she takes her time to understand it leaving no stone unturned before she puts it out for public consumption.
It does not sit well with many that Beyoncé and her team could have been so sloppy that they did not do the due diligence of thoroughly checking out the diamond and its history before participating in this campaign. Had they done so, they would have discovered its controversial history and avoided the backlash altogether.
Again, the sentiments being put out is that Beyoncé could have done much better here.
We are in the second year of a global pandemic. Five million people have died, millions of others are struggling financially and suffering mentally and emotionally after having lost their livelihoods and homes even.
The timing for marketing these diamonds was just wrong.
The audacity for Beyoncé to market pricey gems to the world when many are struggling to feed themselves and to keep a roof over their heads. The same audacity that many celebrities had when they posted about how they were struggling in their huge mansions and sprawling gardens during the early days of global lockdown or when they posted about sailing away in their luxurious mega yachts.
It’s true that the wealthy got wealthier during the pandemic and can obviously afford to purchase these expensive diamonds, but the majority who may also be the ones voicing their opinions online against Beyoncé’s campaign are struggling. And her participation in an opulence campaign during a global pandemic may seem insensitive and may come out in bad taste to them.
Who can afford to buy pricey diamonds during a global pandemic? Definitely not the majority. And for these reasons, they may have let Beyoncé have it.
Next to the pandemic blues, Beyoncé might have received backlash for wearing the Tiffany diamond simply because of the exclusive nature of diamonds.
Again, very few people can afford to buy diamonds in a normally performing economy. Let alone in a global pandemic!
Many that were against Beyoncé’s actions have the ability to participate in other ventures and campaigns that she is involved in. They can purchase or stream her music, they can attend her concerts, and can purchase products from her Ivy Park collection. All actions that allow them to participate in her world and connect with her. But diamonds especially pricey ones may be out of their reach which locked them out of participating in a Beyoncé campaign creating a disconnect with their idol.
Beyoncé attracts a diverse fan base. Not just the super-wealthy. As the majority in her fandom cannot afford these diamonds, they could have wondered why they were being marketed to them in the first place! This could have somewhat contributed to the backlash against Beyoncé’s Tiffany & Co campaign.
Millennials and diamonds
Millennials care little for diamonds. The diamond industry is one of those industries that they have been accused to have killed. As a generation, they have been exposed to the ugly history and realities of diamond mining, market manipulation, and perceived rarity. Also, the realities of living life as a millennial with huge student loans, other debt, expensive housing, and the high prices of household goods leave little funds available for luxurious products such as diamonds.
Millennials are also aware of the Hollywood campaigns throughout the decades that pushed diamonds into the love cultures of previous generations. Through movies and celebrity endorsements, diamond companies managed to convince audiences that love was best expressed through the exchange of diamonds leading this practice to be a core part of western socialisation, especially during engagements and weddings.
Millennials are not fooled by these tactics of the diamond industry. Not even Beyoncé’s stardom can make them fall for it!
As they may be the majority of those voicing their opinions on Twitter and on other online platforms, their apathy towards these stones and them being marketed to them may come out in the form of attacks and criticism to those being used in these marketing campaigns. Beyoncé not being an exception.
Beyoncé might have worn a diamond with an ugly history yes, that’s why she received the criticism. But Millenials also want little to do with mined diamonds. No matter whose marketing it to them.
The availability of lab-grown diamonds has pushed many away from traditionally mined diamonds.
These diamonds still hold the beauty and allure of regular diamonds without having the controversy of exploitation, human rights violations, violence, environmental degradation, market manipulation, and perceived rarity. They are also more affordable.
Had Beyoncé worn a diamond free of these negativities, she wouldn’t have gotten the backlash that she received.
Beyoncé is a darling. She is beloved by millions globally. Her art is fun, diverse, memorable, trendsetting, and of quality. It teaches and empowers. It is inspirational and many can relate to the story, the lyrics, the message, and the symbolism. Millions celebrate with her in her success and mourn with her in her pain.
Beyoncé also handles her stardom with a lot of class, grace, and humility. Even though a huge superstar, she still manages to be relatable. Unlike many stars of her rank such as Michael Jackson, her stardom is linked with little eccentricities and controversy. Other than a few incidences such as when she was accused of breaking up her group Destiny’s child at the beginning of her career and when she poured expensive liquor into her jacuzzi, she has received little criticism from the public.
Beyoncé seems to have defied the notion that great stardom must also come with great tragedy. For these reasons and more, she receives a lot of love and admiration from the public.
It's not that her recent actions are acceptable, but her almost squeaky clean public image could have blown this one negative thing she did to bigger heights. Beyoncé could be so great that the public will not accept a mistake from her.
Beyoncé the private person
Beyoncé is very protective of her personal life. Other than the infrequent images she posts on her Instagram and brief clips of her family she puts in her art and documentaries, the public knows very little about much of her day-to-day activities. The star has also not participated in many such promotions in recent years.
The scarcity of publicly available information about her leaves much room for speculation. The rarity of such activities also allows for those she puts out to be dissected from all angles by audiences. And as a result of this dissection, any negative aspect of her activities will be as widely spoken about as the positive. The Tiffany & Co campaign is no exception.
The bigger the star…
Beyoncé is not the first person to wear this Tiffany Diamond. She is also not the first star to do so. Lady Gaga wore the diamond to the 2019 Oscars but she didn’t receive the backlash that Beyoncé did. She didn’t even receive any at all.
But because Beyoncé is a much bigger star when compared to Lady Gaga, her activities both good and controversial attract much more attention.
As Michael Jackson put it, “the bigger the star, the bigger the target.” Just as her positive campaigns receive much attention, so do the negative ones. And the bigger her stardom is, the bigger the negativity she will attract.
Any lesser star could wear the Tiffany diamond tomorrow and many will not even bat an eyelid.
Even though in truth Beyoncé was wrong to wear a diamond with a controversial history of black exploitation, many other factors combined could have contributed to the backlash that she received.